CLEVELAND — Former North Ridgeville resident Cmdr. Bob Zirzow has been going to the Cleveland National Air Show at Burke Lakefront Airport since he was born and has been showing off planes there since 2001.
But the 45-year-old pilot said the upcoming show this weekend might be his last as he prepares to retire from the Navy.
“I have a very strong feeling that the sun is going to set on me coming back here with the Navy,” he said. “I plan on retiring from the Navy soon.”
Zirzow is a flight instructor based out of Corpus Christi, Texas, and said he serves the Navy as a select reservist, essentially making him part time and flying one week out of the month. He graduated from North Ridgeville High School in 1991 and graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis. , as a member of the school’s Navy ROTC program.
He said this is the sixth time he’ll be bringing work back to his former home in Northeast Ohio, with the first time being when he showed a Navy plane at the Cleveland air show in 2001.
“It’s been 17 years already since my first one,” he said. “But I really grew up at the air show.”
Zirzow said he and one of his students were making the trip to show a small turbo training plane, one of the last planes they fly before graduating from flight school.
“We’ll be a ground display,” he said. “And the neat part about that is people can come onto the plane, sit in the seats and see the dials and gauges. I love getting to see all of the kids doing that because it’s like how I was 35 years ago.”
Zirzow said he views coming to the air show as a training exercise for his students.
“I also really enjoy getting to see my students become more confident in their abilities as the show goes on even if it is just over a couple of days. To get the recognition outside of training that they’re doing great work is amazing.”
Zirzow said after landing Friday, he and his student will be in Cleveland until Tuesday morning, staying for the final show Monday night before heading back to Texas.
“This show has a great reputation through the Navy and other places, especially when it comes to the organization,” he said. “Invitations go out well in advance so everything goes together really well. There’s a lot of people who work behind the scenes who should definitely get recognition for the work they do to put this all together for everyone to enjoy.”
Zirzow said he’s in his 20th year of service with the Navy, and he views the show as a way to give back to his home of Northeast Ohio as opposed to just a work assignment.
“I hope every time to be able to spark an interest in flying for one kid,” he said. “That’s when I can consider this a success.”